Despite the extra measures the American Red Cross is taking to ensure the safety and health of its volunteer workforce, volunteers from South Florida keep on helping people in the community when it comes to home fires.
Nancy Dzoba, who has been a Red Cross volunteer for two and a half years, was one of two volunteers that responded to such a fire in Sunrise, Fla., on March 19 where fortunately no one was hurt. She is a member of the Disaster Action Team (DAT) – volunteers trained to respond to home fires and provide assistance to those affected.
DAT volunteers had some training in the past week to face the new coronavirus situation. During their regular monthly meeting, they had a presentation and training on new procedures to follow during fire calls; it gave them the chance to ask questions and get feedback; and they got a better understanding of where they are right now and what they may be facing in the future.
“It was nice that the Red Cross gave us hand sanitizers, gloves, masks not only for ourselves but for the clients as well, in case they showed symptoms” says Nancy.
When Nancy and a DAT trainee arrived at the scene of the fire, the first thing volunteers were instructed to ask is whether the clients have been ill or if they or anybody in their family has been in contact with someone that has COVID-19. The volunteers also ask the clients if they are comfortable talking to them, in case they are nervous about coming into contact with strangers.
Also, it is very important to maintain six or eight feet away from the clients. At the same time, it is important to provide privacy to the client when assessing their needs. “Some of the neighbors were outside watching so you have to look around and say ok, can we move somewhere so not everyone can hear us and keep the conversation private,” says Nancy.
That was the biggest difference, she explained, who usually introduces herself by shaking hands with the client. Now, shaking hands is no longer allowed. That did not stop these particular clients from expressing their thanks to the Red Cross volunteers.
“The one thing that did happen that was kind of funny is that, as we were finishing and leaving, the client walked over and gave us a hug. It was like whoa! they are closer than the social distance!”
This was the first fire call Nancy received after the new coronavirus protocols were implemented and Nancy says they made the decision to go out using the precautions they were told to use. She felt comfortable responding to this fire and says it wasn’t too different. However, if the situation worsens, the Red Cross may start providing remote assistance to clients.
“I think it is important that we continue helping people in these situations because bad things like fires are still going to happen despite the coronavirus. I think it’s good for clients to see that people in the community care, that people are showing up to give them some help,” says Nancy.
“It is a very gratifying feeling to know that you are helping your neighbors out there.”
Written by Elisa Manrique Sastre